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Why traditional livestock markets are still important in regional Britain

FOLK2FOLK

“To market, to market to buy a fat pig….”  As the term implies, a ‘Market Town’ is the venue for a market.  Now limited to a general market and perhaps a monthly farmers’ market, still protected by some type of Charter, there would in times gone by have been a regular livestock market too.

Increased house building meant the sights and sounds of livestock markets, and the smell, were not appreciated by all and the sites became valuable real estate, especially as the supermarkets wanted to increase their presence.  The change in farming practices as more grass went under the plough, direct selling to abattoirs, access for large articulated four-decker lorries and the increased problems of dirty water disposal; all played a part in the demise of the ‘traditional’ market in the centre of town.

Instead, the late 20th century saw the development of the Livestock Centre. A large out-of-town facility that encompasses the highest standards of animal welfare; a trend that continues today.  Good road access, adequate parking for every type of vehicle and modern handling facilities.  Regular weekly sales are supplemented with specialist breed sales, machinery sales and antique sales, making the site a much more used venue, usually also providing a general office base for the controlling auctioneer.  Other professionals and services often rent a booth or small office within the centre.  You can sell your sheep, pay for your insurance, see the vet and have a haircut all in one place!

Much is written about mental health wellbeing and isolation. The market café provides a vital service.  Many retired farmers will come to the market for breakfast with their mates and still be there at lunchtime.  For those coming in from remote farms it is a valuable opportunity to catch up.  I often say to farmers ‘go to market and talk, it might not solve your problem, but you will realise others have the same problem’.

Livestock markets and other rural traditions are an important part of country life. At FOLK2FOLK we’re proud to support regional Britain by creating opportunities to share ideas at our Dairy Seminars and Leader Evenings; recognising excellence with our Champion Calf Award; supporting farming charities at events and, not least, providing the finance to help British businesses grow, develop and diversify.

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Picture1-1-1By Ian Bell, Head of Farming & Rural Engagement

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